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Non-traditional career paths in spa and wellness

20 Jun 2016
Know your passion, develop your skills

Most management books, every career counselor and all the head hunters tell you that you need to have a plan for your career path that includes a back-up and contingency (or two) in the event of, well almost anything.

Often, there is a gap between the theory of career planning and the reality of ones’ actual career path. This is evidenced by my friend and colleague, Rianna Riego’s, path to Executive Director of Wellness, Brand & Communication at the acclaimed Two Bunch Palms, in Desert Hot Springs, CA.

Rianna (pictured) started her professional career in the Philippines, after obtaining her BS in Business Administration with a concentration in marketing; hardly the traditional background for a Wellness Executive.

Her first position in public relations at the Hilton Manila could have evolved into a spa-focused position, were it not for personal issues that brought her to the Northeast corridor of the US. Property Management, Wall Street Capital, and Retail Management further defined her non-traditional spa career path.

A trailing-spouse move to Hawaii, a few years later, afforded her the opportunity to experience the “spa life” as a customer; her career in the spa industry still being something for her future self. However, at that time, she had an acute awareness of how the spa environment can make one feel pampered like a queen - indulged, nourished and safe.

About a dozen years into her professional life, while Rianna was working and living in Hawaii, she had her “aha moment” and has never looked back.

Even though Rianna modestly considers herself “a-jack-of-all-trades-and-a-master-of-none”, her financial acumen in functions like reading and developing budgets, her expertise in retail and her background in real estate sales and development provided her with many of the tools needed to work as a consultant to the Four Seasons, Maui.

As she built up her spa skill set, she realized that much of her belief system had always been aligned with traditional spa ethos. Triple bottom line strategies (people, planet, and profit), as well as the etheric elements of the body, mind and spirit triad, were all things that she had always valued. She was building another technical skill set and coming home to her core values at the same time.

What may have appeared as a 12-year delay towards working in the spa industry was, in essence, a rigorous 12-year preparation to hone her technical, business training. Over two and half decades into her career, Rianna is back where she started, yet a few octaves higher. Day-to-day dealings with the financial, retail, training, branding, and messaging of a world class resort environment in many ways supports her “mind” and speaks to the academic passions of her early career days. However, doing in at Two Bunch Palms means she’s also doing it for her “spirit” at a place where she actually “lives”.

Rianna’s suggestion to those starting a career or changing courses mid-stream: Go back and look to where you were the happiest in your life, what were you doing that brought you joy? Ask yourself, how can I incorporate that into my career? Your answers will give you direction and insight into making your next move.

When asked about next steps in her own career, Rianna concludes with some insight regarding our industry in general; “evolving one’s career is a given in an industry that in and by itself is dynamically evolving, as well.”

By Peter Anderson

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